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The Mystery of the Vanishing Point

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  • The Mystery of the Vanishing Point

    Brian Sand went on a hike to clear his head after the latest marriage trouble. He went alone, and this is not recommended: The wilderness, even the managed areas, is filled with bears and water moccasins and unstable footing and desperate people with nothing to lose.

    Brian Sand did not show up for work on Monday morning. After finishing the termination paperwork, his boss thought to file a police report as a courtesy. His car was found empty at the trailhead, a search was commenced, but nothing came of it. It’s a big park, after all. Now all that remains is the regret of those who cared and a lightly discussed post on r/UnresolvedMysteries.

    Brian is not the first to vanish in this way from that place, nor will he be the last.

    Halfway along the main trail is a stony immensity, cleft in twain by the forces of erosion and human inspiration. It is incorporated into the path, with hikers traversing its center to reach the other side. The trail enters, reaches the core, then makes a sharp, angular turn and exits again. It is an imminently photographable place, gracing the page of more than one Instagram influencer and travel website. For the obsessive and morbid, however, it is more than just a facet of poignant beauty.

    The rangers won’t talk about it, but it goes like this:

    A group goes hiking in the park together. They reach the stone cleft, and pass through. The trail narrows enough that they are obliged to go one-by-one. Each person enters, fades into the depths of the tunnel, then reemerges on the other side, perhaps pausing to gaze up at the halo of the sun from the rock’s center. Except not everyone makes it through. Where there were five there are now only four. Everyone saw her go inside the tunnel; she was neither the first nor the last. But now she’s gone. Is it a trick? The others walk back through but she’s not on either side. They call out her name, but there is no response, only a pack of vultures circling over a wooded cliff in the distance. They look but there is no other way in or out. There are no crevices to fall into, no handholds to climb. What happened? They will never know.

    Perhaps you’ve heard of this story before. Perhaps it showed up on an urban legends website or a conspiracy theory message board. Perhaps you saw the faces of the vanished hikers in your dreams, their wandering a silvery landscape and calling for help with no one to answer them. Perhaps you are one of the bereaved. Perhaps the Consilium has asked you to investigate.

    With the proper investigative work or judicious use of Serendipity, you may uncover that the cleft of the rock itself is the site of the disappearances, when they’re noticed at all. To Sleeper vision, no clue reveals itself, but to Time Sight, the central chamber appears as a glowing column of silver, starting at the natural floor and ending at the hole to the open sky. The locus of the Mystery has been uncovered.

    Opacity: 5
    Scrutinizing Arcanum: Time

    Surface Information:
    • The Mystery is also connected to the Fate Arcanum.
    • The Mystery is not the result of Awakened magic.
    • There is no Signature Nimbus attached to the Mystery, but it does resonate with the Supernal Realm of Arcadia. (For non-Acanthus, this is Deep Information instead.)
    • The Mystery is as old as the cleft in the boulder.
    • The Mystery is associated with the Practice of Making.
    Deep Information:
    • The Mystery is significantly more powerful than the analyzer.
    • The Mystery originates from the Supernal Realm of Arcadia.
    • The Mystery replicates the effects of the Time Making spell Temporal Pocket on certain subjects who pass through the center of the cleft, with one modification:
      • The subject cannot end the spell early by interacting with the world. Every surface, person, and thing is either impenetrably hard or immediately bounces back to its original shape and position as if the subject had never interacted with it at all.
    • The spell effect’s Duration is indefinite. Its Potency is 10. The spell only affects Sleepers and Sleepwalkers.
    • In addition, to be affected by the spell, the subject must have broken a promise since the last crescent moon. This includes violating an oath, perjury, or failing to keep even a casual statement of intent.
    The implications of this all should be clear enough: Those unfortunate enough to be displaced from time wander a frozen landscape, alone and distraught, until they die from accident, deprivation, or suicide. There is, however, a critical piece of Deepest Information, available only after a mage has successfully unraveled the Mystery to its core:
    • The Mystery was created with purpose, intertwined as it is with the fate of the boulder in which it rests. It serves as a trial for a particular Seeker, one who is marked to pass through this spot by the weave of destiny, to Awaken to the Watchtower of the Lunargent Thorn. Who this individual is, or when they are meant to appear here (if they haven’t already) is beyond the ken of un-Ascended Sight. The Mystery will undo itself once the chosen Seeker Awakens (if they didn’t fail already, long ago), or if the boulder is destroyed, though in the latter case, there will be consequences as unforeseeable as they are dire.
    Linked Mystery

    In the Shadow corresponding to the park, a spirit (an Ithalune in fact, if the mage knows what that is) stands fixed, unmoving and unspeaking, in the exact spot of the cleft. It remains frozen there except for when it suddenly animates and begins to move erratically around the landscape, wandering this way and that, pausing at places, turning slowly, taking several steps backward, before suddenly breaking into a mad dash in one direction or another, up hills and over dales, scaling cliffs, rending at plants, screaming into the dark, only to eventually stop, discorporate, and reform in the same position as it once was, frozen once more. Its state is an Opacity 3 Mystery that can be analyzed with Spirit and Fate. Revelation uncovers that the spirit is bound to the site of the Mystery not intentionally, but as a side-effect of its powerful symbolic resonance, and that it is acting out the movements of those who have been trapped outside perceivable time. Fully Scrutinizing either Mystery lowers the Opacity of the other by one.

    Consequences and Rewards

    Beyond the Arcane Beats, Mana, and inevitable bolster to a mage’s career, solving the Mystery of the cleft brings with it several side-effects. First, if word gets out that the park is meant to be a site of Awakening with a near-direct line to the Supernal Realms, the place will find itself crawling with mages of every Order, each with their own ideas about how the Mystery should be utilized. Guardians of the Veil will have an agent stationed in the park staff within the week, while Mystagogue Aleithians riddle the area with hidden scrying channels. Seers of the Prophet will make pilgrimages here to search for signs of their god, while Libertines will pursue them. Some willworker will invariably attempt to break inside the Mystery and never be heard from again, the traces of their life even potentially succumbing to Aponoia.

    Beyond the social ramifications, a mage who fully scrutinizes the Mystery discovers a new way to cast the Temporal Pocket spell: By including an additional Reach, the subject no longer ends the effect through interaction with the world, and in fact can’t interact with the world around them at all. They can still breathe and move, but everything is frozen in place and intractable. Cast this way, the spell is Withstood by Composure.

    The unfortunate souls trapped in the Mystery’s effect can actually be retrieved through a casting of Temporal Summoning requiring an additional Reach, point of Mana, and appropriate Sympathetic Yantra; however, if the subject has already died while in the temporal pocket, the spell will only conjure their bones. At least it’s a form of closure. Corridors of Time is a surer bet.

    Alternatively, if you need to dispose of a problematic Sleeper, have them break a promise (or just cast a nice long Fabricate Fortune on them) and then send them on their way.

    The Lune can be freed from its fatebound prison either through the resolution of the initial Mystery, or through a casting of a special Fate + Spirit Unraveling spell (which costs a point of Mana) to disentangle its destiny and Essence from the Supernal magic. The spirit will be grateful for this, and though only Rank 2 and so of limited power, its Celestial Mother is always watching.
    Last edited by espritdecalmar; 08-05-2021, 12:32 PM.

  • #2
    Very nice. I especially love it's a good exemple of the Mystery being solved doesn't end the story.


    • #3
      I find it a little odd to have it that the Mystery yields information of not being the result of Awakened magic, but attribute spell factors to it.

      What does it mean for it to have Potency 10?

      I have approximate knowledge of many things.
      Write up as I play Xenoblade Chronicles.


      • #4
        Originally posted by Isator Levi View Post
        I find it a little odd to have it that the Mystery yields information of not being the result of Awakened magic, but attribute spell factors to it.

        What does it mean for it to have Potency 10?
        I went back and forth on that. The corebook is a little ambiguous on what "Awakened magic" means in the context of a scrutinizing a Mystery. I ultimately decided that even though it technically uses spell effects, it wasn't cast by a mage (or at least wasn't cast by a pre-Archmastery mage) and so to normal Sight doesn't register as a normal spell but rather the imposition of the Supernal on the Fallen.

        Potency 10 doesn't really mean anything. Maybe it means that a Sleeper that somehow had a Composure rating of 10 would be immune to the Mystery's effect. I mainly included it in case a player decided to experiment with casting spells on the Mystery and the Storyteller needed the factor to adjudicate the result.


        • #5
          Ooh, an example Mystery. I don’t think I’ve seen such. Nice.

          MtAw Homebrew:
          Even more Legacies, updated to 2E
          New 2E Legacies, expanded